Monday, January 20, 2014

Don't ask, don't get

By Joan

When I first wake, I slap on my glasses, pick up my phone from my nightstand and scroll through emails. I’ve got my eye open for agent emails from still-outstanding manuscripts – even though everyone knows emails are for rejection and phone calls are for offers of representation. Like many writers, I’m on mailing lists for publishing industry newsletters and literary magazines' calls for submissions and contests, such as Publisher’s Weekly, Writers’ Digest, The Bookseller (in case one day I want a London publishing job!), Ploughshares, Glimmer Train and Granta.

If I’m in recluse writer mode, I often delete these – write first, read about writing later! But Wednesday morning I was scrolling through my email and noticed a Ploughshares email which read:

Ploughshares Lit Mag (@pshares) mentioned you on Twitter!

I opened it up to see that Ploughshares had published my essay online in their Writing Lessons feature. I scrambled out of bed and went to tell my husband. Before I had a sip of coffee, I read and reread my essay, paced and jumped and screamed. Before re-Tweeting and Facebooking it (are these verbs yet?), I wisely waited for caffeine.

At our last retreat, Pamela and I made a pact to submit something every month of 2014--to a contest or literary journal or writing program, and when our current manuscripts are ready, to literary agents. We both started early by submitting in December. Pamela was rewarded right away with a lovely essay she wrote about her Mom, published in the New York Times Magazine

Writing a novel is a long process with few rewards along the way. This week Susan shared some tips on setting writing goals. She wrote: “Not only does submitting your work keep you focused, it keeps you writing.”

So far in January, I’ve submitted a novel excerpt and the first two pages of my WIP for an online agent workshop. In February, I will submit a short story to another literary magazine and will likely apply for one or two summer workshops, as well as enter some contests in the spring. By year end, I hope to be submitting my new manuscript. Getting rewarded right away was definitely motivation to continue. Don’t ask don’t get, or in this case, don’t submit, don’t publish.

I’ll leave you with an inspiring clip posted on The Australian Writers' Centre's Writing Bar blog from Neil Gaiman, a true advocate for aspiring writers. 

In the clip he says:

“If you’re only going to write when you’re inspired, you may be a fairly decent poet, but you will never be a novelist.”


“... as quickly as you can, start telling the stories that only you can tell — because there will always be better writers than you, there will always be smarter writers than you … but you are the only you.” 

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